Kamala Harris embraces new attack role, draws fresh Republican fire

Agencies, Boston
Vice President Kamala Harris has shown a punchy side during a tour of nearly a dozen US states in recent weeks, attacking Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for backing “revisionist history” about slavery, telling Iowa healthcare workers to rebel against the state’s new restrictive abortion laws and rallying Latinos in Chicago to fight “extremist” Republicans.

Today, Harris, the first woman and first woman of colour to serve as vice president, opens the NAACP’s annual conference in Boston, a key political event for Black Americans that will help define the issues Democrats focus on in the 2024 election.

The high-profile speeches are part of an expanded role for US President Joe Biden’s much-scrutinized governing partner ahead of the election, senior Democrats say. She’ll engage in many more campaign-style events in months to come, designed to reacquaint Harris with loyal supporters, burnish her image with independents and reach out to Democrats’ who haven’t been hearing the Biden administration’s message.

It’s a move that couldn’t happen too soon, some influential Democrats say. “We have constantly said to the White House that they need to send her out more because we need the base – that is Black voters and others – to understand what you are doing,” Reverend Al Sharpton, a veteran civil rights activist and head of the National Action Network, told Reuters. Biden credits Black voters for his 2020 victory, with exit polls showing he carried 87% of the vote.

But recent polls and turnout in the 2022 midterms reveal erosion in enthusiasm among the bloc that needs to be shored up before next November. The White House is also hoping to improve Harris’ public image and historically low   approval ratings. A recent NBC News poll showed 49% of registered voters hold a negative view of Harris, compared to 32% with a positive view, a net-negative rating of 17 that is the lowest for a vice president in the history of its poll.

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